Former Reserve Deputy Robert Bates leaves court Friday, the third day of his trial on second-degree manslaughter. Photo courtesy NewsOn6

Former Reserve Deputy Robert Bates leaves court Friday, the third day of his trial on second-degree manslaughter. Photo courtesy NewsOn6

The .38-caliber bullet fired by Robert Bates into Eric Harris as he lay on the ground pierced Harris’ armpit, zig zagged through his chest and rib cage and punched a golf ball sized hole in his right lung, a pathologist testified Friday.

During a sometimes combative cross examination by Bates’ defense attorney, Clark Brewster, the pathologist, Dr. Cheryl Niblo, remained firm in her conclusion about Harris’ cause of death. Niblo, a forensic pathologist for the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office, testified that Harris died from a combination of internal bleeding and a collapsed lung caused by the gunshot.

“They had to pump blood into him because he was bleeding to death. That is a very important point,” she said.

Niblo was the 12th witness to testify since Bates’ trial on a second-degree manslaughter charge began Wednesday in Tulsa County District Court.

Friday’s testimony also centered on first responders who tried to help Harris and deputies who were present on April 2, 2015, when Bates shot Harris. Bates was serving as a volunteer reserve deputy with the Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office drug task force during an undercover gun sting at the time.

Harris fled from deputies, was tackled a short distance later, and then was shot by Bates, who has said he thought he was holding his Taser at the time.

The prosecutors, First Assistant District Attorney John David Luton and Assistant District Attorney Kevin Gray, must show that Bates was guilty of culpable negligence when he shot Harris. If convicted, Bates faces up to four years in prison.

Though the prosecution has nearly wrapped up its case, jurors have heard no testimony about how a Taser and revolver could be confused, differences in how they operate and haven’t seen the actual weapons in question. There has also been no testimony about Bates’ training records and that he had not completed the required training to serve as a reserve deputy.

The Tulsa County DA’s office is prosecuting Bates but must also defend itself in a federal civil rights lawsuit filed by Harris’ family. Testimony about Bates being allowed to serve despite his lack of training could be used against the county in that civil case.

Bates is a wealthy insurance executive and longtime friend of former Sheriff Stanley Glanz. A TCSO investigation in 2009 found Bates received favorable treatment at the sheriff’s office and that supervisors were told about his lack of training.

District Judge Bill Musseman is presiding over the criminal trial, which has unusually high security including deputies that have at times prevented reporters and Harris’ family from entering the courtroom. The courtroom has a metal detector and deputies at the door searching all spectators thoroughly.

Meanwhile, two murder trials — one involving two victims — and a rape trial are underway one floor below without any such security measures. District Attorney Steve Kunzweiler is prosecuting one of the murder trials.

‘He’s bleeding to death’

During Friday’s testimony, Brewster tried to attack Niblo’s relative lack of experience and questioned her conclusions. After she completed required academic degrees and professional training, the position in Oklahoma was Niblo’s first job as a forensic pathologist.

Niblo said she has worked for the ME’s office for nearly two years, has performed over 640 autopsies and is board certified. She described Harris as 207 pounds, 71 inches tall with some hardening of the arteries near his heart.

Forensic Pathologist Cheryl Niblo testifies Friday about her autopsy of Eric Harris. Courtroom sketch by Evelyn Petroski

Forensic Pathologist Cheryl Niblo testifies Friday about her autopsy of Eric Harris. Courtroom sketch by Evelyn Petroski

She said the autopsy found he had methamphetamine in his blood but said it isn’t unusual to find gunshot victims with meth or other street drugs in their systems. Harris has several felony convictions and had previously sold drugs to an undercover TCSO deputy.

Niblo testified she found a large amount of blood that had leaked into Harris’ pleural cavity, which surrounds the lungs, from the gunshot wound.

“The gunshot caused a combination of bilateral lung collapse and the bleeding,” Niblo said.

Brewster, exasperated by Niblo’s testimony, asked if it was possibly that use of methamphetamine combined with the stress of running from police and Harris’ existing heart issues could have caused cardiac arrest.

“It’s possible,” Niblo answered.

However, she said the fact that the hospital pumped five units of blood into Harris shows that he was bleeding internally. After Harris’ heart stopped beating at the shooting scene, he never regained a heartbeat.

“They’re not pumping blood into him for their health. He’s bleeding to death,” she responded.

Several first responders also testified about Harris’ condition when they arrived and what they tried to do to save him.

Firefighter Quinn Wehlacz said he was one of three firefighters on a truck assigned to Station 16, at Apache and Harvard. The crew happened to be in the area of 1900 N. Harvard Ave., where the shooting occurred, because they had gone to the grocery store.

Harris was shot at 10:12 a.m. and Wehlacz’s truck arrived three minutes later.  He testified he saw “a group of people on the ground and a man in handcuffs, which I assumed to be the patient. He was sitting up.”

Wehlacz said Harris was uncooperative and would not speak to firefighters trying to assess him. There was a small amount of blood around the wound under Harris’ right arm, he said.

“One of the offices removed the handcuffs from his hands and put them on his ankles,” Wehlacz said.

He left to retrieve a gurney and when he returned, Harris had gone into cardiac arrest. Wehlacz said he began chest compressions and a mask with a bag attached was used to pump oxygen into his body.

Brewster asked about reports that Harris was given Narcan, a drug given to people who may have overdosed.

“It would be helpful to know what caused his demise, right?” Brewster asked.

But Wehlacz said he hadn’t written the report Brewster was referencing.

Gray asked Wehlacz if respiratory failure from a collapsed lung could cause cardiac arrest, to which the firefighter answered yes.

“Can people who can’t breathe be difficult to deal with?” Gray asked.

“Yes,” Wehlacz answered.

Firefighter Jonathan Pierce was on a second TFD crew that arrived at 10:20 a.m. Pierce, a paramedic with advanced lifesaving training, said Harris was already in cardiac arrest when he arrived.

He helped load Harris into an ambulance, which arrived six minutes after the shooting, and was among three firefighters who rode to St. John Medical Center with him. During the ride, they administered two epinephrine shots to try to jump start his heart, without success.

‘That’s a nice gun’

One notable moment earlier Friday occurred during testimony by Lance Frederick, a deputy who was down the street from the Dollar General where the raid was taking place.

Throughout the week, the defense has maintained that deputies including Bates, who arrived after Harris had been tackled by Deputy Ricardo Vaca, had no way of knowing if the undercover gun sale had been successful.

Frederick served as a conduit between Deputy Lance Ramsey as Ramsey conducted the undercover buy and deputies on the arrest team. Frederick listened for Ramsey to say the signal phrase — “that’s a nice gun” — before giving the signal to arrest Harris.

The defense has stated that Frederick’s subsequent arrest signal (“Takedown! Takedown! Takedown!”) gave no notice to other deputies about whether Ramsey had control of the gun or whether Harris had possibly attacked Ramsey.

Therefore, the defense has said, other deputies had to assume it was possible that Harris had fled from the undercover pickup with the gun he was supposed to sell to Ramsey.

However, Frederick testified Friday that other deputies knew Ramsey was safe inside the vehicle because Frederick hadn’t said otherwise. Frederick was listening to audio from inside the pickup as the gun sale was taking place, and said he would have told the other deputies if something out of the ordinary had taken place.

Deputies knew “everything was going OK?” Corbin Brewster asked.

“Yes,” Frederick said.

Much of the testimony throughout the week has been similar; 10 witnesses had been called through noon Friday, nine who were active participants in the Harris sting. Prosecutors have tried to portray the gun buy as typical of a normal buy-bust operation, while the defense has focused on the danger deputies faced.

As many of the other deputies have testified, Deputy Leighton Boyd testified that he knew the operation was dangerous but that he would not have shot Harris. Boyd was one of the first deputies to chase a fleeing Harris, and exited his undercover vehicle with his gun drawn. He testified that he had his finger on the trigger, but ultimately chose not to fire his gun.

“It was very close to a lethal force situation,” Boyd told Bates’ attorney, Corbin Brewster. “It could have gone either way.”

Following conclusion of Friday’s testimony, prosecutors announced they planned to call one additional witness Monday before they rest. Defense attorneys expect to call four experts, including doctors who will testify about the impact of stress on decision making and who will question Harris’ cause of death.

The trial is expected to continue into mid-week before the 12-member jury deliberates Bates’ fate.

Read portions of Eric Harris’ autopsy report.

Watch a recap of Friday’s testimony from our media partner, NewsOn6.